The sub-genre of horror where man (or on a rare occasion woman) versus beast often called natural horror films encompasses any and all movies where human beings are besieged by all sorts of creatures great and small from sharks, anaconda’s and piranha’s to frog’s, slugs and killer bees.
Containing many famous and fantastic movies such as Hitchcock’s The Birds, Spielberg’s Jaws, Fuller’s White Dog and the myriad of incarnations of King Kong and Godzilla it is also home to a whole host of B-movies some good, some bad and some so bad they’re hilarious.
Directed by Logan’s Run helmer Michael Anderson and produced by the legendary Dino De Laurentiis Orca The Killer Whale is a natural horror cult classic which manages to somehow be both brilliant and ridiculous at the same time and immensely enjoyable throughout.
Opening in the ocean where we see a pair of killer whales free and frolicking in the sun the story revolves around Irish boat Captain Nolan played by the fantastic Richard Harris who while out looking for great white sharks to capture and sell to an aquarium encounters a pair of scientists who are attacked by the finned force of nature off the Canadian coast.
The scientists are in fact saved by the killer whale attacking the shark and this gives Nolan the idea to switch the target of his hunt to the orca instead in the hopes of making himself more money.
Harpooning one of the gigantic beasts he hauls it on board where he realises to his horror that he has caught a pregnant female who is so injured she commits suicide miscarrying the baby she was baring.
Distressed and distraught Nolan and his crew head home however they fail to notice that this terrible event was witnessed by another, the killer whale that was both father and partner to the murdered orcas.
Driven by revenge the whale systematically destroys Nolan’s life turning the hunters into the hunted as he kills each member of Nolan’s crew calling the captain out for a final confrontation where only one of them can walk or swim away alive.
So to recap the plot is a fisherman mistakenly murders a killer whale’s wife and unborn child so the killer whale seeks retribution with a focused campaign of fear, destruction and death dealing including picking off members of his crew by leaping out of the water to eat them, sinking several boats by ramming into them, destroying a house and setting fire to the whole town.
All of this is as amazing and insane as it sounds and the big set pieces are great fun full of explosions, blood, gore and extreme close ups of the orca’s eye showing the anger or pain or whatever it is he is thinking at the time.
What elevates the movie above other creature features is the serious performances of the cast with Charlotte Rampling’s whale expert constantly telling us in poetic voice overs how intelligent orcas are in the hopes of bringing some believability to the preposterous premise alongside Will Sampson’s native American who adds a supernatural spiritual element to the creatures quest.
Caught in the middle of it all is Nolan played wonderfully by Richard Harris who imbues the cardboard character with a depth and pathos many actors would have failed to contribute proving that the true test of an actor is not how they deal with an Oscar winning script but how they manage to shine through a terrible genre movie.
Part Moby Dick, part Jaws part crazy ocean bound apex predator revenge movie Orca The Killer Whale is a riotous cult horror with a highly talented cast that will guarantee you a whale of a time.